Former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam once said, "Where there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in the character. When there is beauty in the character, there is harmony in the home. When there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation. When there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world."
Bangladesh became independent through the Liberation War of 1971 in which patriotic people of all religions participated irrespectively. Three million martyrs laid down their lives to liberate Bangladesh under the unwavering leadership of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Bangabandhu believed in equal rights for all people of the country. He viewed everyone from an identical angle of vision. Therefore, we are under moral obligations to comply with the values Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman taught us. We should live in peace with all our fellow citizens showing respect to each and everyone's religious practices and faith.
We all are one. We all are Bengalis. "Banglar Hindu, Banglar Christian, Banglar Buddhists, Banglar Mussalmans, amra sobai Bangali"-it was one of the most popular slogans during 1971 which consolidated harmony and amity throughout Bangladesh at that crucial time. We should uphold the spirit of 1971 and bear a non-communal mindset all the way ahead.Socio-economic justice and equity were the main watchwords with which the glorious Liberation War was fought.
Keeping this in view we should keep away from generating discrimination in our country on religious or any other basis.We do not want any isolation to take place between the believers of different religions in our country. It opposes the ideals with which the Liberation War was fought and it contradicts with the ideology of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The unrestrained rise of communal groups has facilitated the expansion of militants and religious bigots across the country who are clear threats to domestic peace. Bangladesh has already suffered several attacks by extremist terrorists who have killed ordinary, innocent people in some parts of Bangladesh including foreigners. So, if the government cannot resist the communal organizations, then the bid to terminate militancy may also hit hurdles. Those who kill common citizens in the name of religion are the most terrible enemies of mankind.
A research conducted by a professor of Dhaka University states that from 1964 to 2013, around 11.3 million Hindus left Bangladesh due to religious persecution and discrimination which means on an average 632 Hindus left the country each day and 230,612 annually. Even after 2013, a lot of Hindus have left Bangladesh due to the torment they suffered at the hands of radical gangs. If this exodus continues, no Hindus will be found in Bangladesh after thirty years, the research paper adds.
Communal parties and fanatical groups often look for opportunities to destabilize Bangladesh taking advantage of religious misinterpretations. Religious minorities in our country have come under attacks by extremists and bigots several times. Fundamentalist organizations like Jamaat-E-Islami, Islami Chhatra Shibir, Hefazat-E-Islam and some other radical Islamic outfits hold a very antagonistic attitude towards the minorities around us. In the past people belonging to religious minorities were subjected to violence and tribulations by miscreants during electoral periods.
We remember with horror the grim assaults that religious minorities had to face following the election of 2001. Buddhist minorities were assailed and their temples and homes were vandalized by religious extremists a few years ago in Chittagong division including Cox's Bazar. The severe clash between Hefazat activists and the law and order forces in Dhaka during May 2013 still haunts us.
The government should consider religious minorities as part of the nation's mainstream in terms of education, healthcare, jobs and all other aspects. All the Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, ethnic clans and indigenous tribes of Bangladesh are equal. Everybody deserves to be treated on equal terms. There is no space for disparities or inequity.It may be recalled that fundamentalists did not allow the name "Bikrampur" which is why the name Munshiganj was given to the district. In the same way religious bigots say B.Baria instead of Brahmanbaria.
Lack of equal rights obstructs development and hinders the prevalence of democracy. Immortal leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King combated all their life for equal privileges for people of all religions and races. Socio-economic discrepancies between men and women, rich and poor, believers and nonbelievers weaken a nation and blur its prospects. A nation moves forward at a faster pace when everyone is united firmly. We should take a look at the prosperous nations around the globe and take lessons from their unity, fraternity, good governance and socio-political fairness.
We should remain cautious about the anti-independence quarters who opposed the Liberation War of 1971. These evil entities are still playing their vicious tricks to divide the nation. Allegations show that the agents of the anti-liberation wings are hidden inside the government and working against the interest of Bangladesh.
Communalism remains a threat to the subcontinent through ages. The troublemakers responsible for communal predicaments are still active. For this reason communal divides still prevail. Communal groups are active on social media too. Some facebook pages are run by communal political fronts to provoke antagonism against religious minorities and progressive people.
It may be noted that there is an anti-Indian sentiment in Bangladesh nurtured by religious extremists. A fake letter with a forged signature of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was publicized in Bangladesh in November 2019 to spark communal unrest in the country. It should be noted that anti-Indian assemblages have a soft leaning towards China. History shows that China opposed the Liberation War of 1971 while many Indian soldiers got killed while fighting for Bangladesh's independence. China is Pakistan's most intimate ally. China recognized Bangladesh after the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The Rohingya people of Myanmar's Rakhine province also fell victims to a communal crackdown. Bangladesh has sheltered over one million Rohingyas who moved away from Myanmar to escape ethnic cleansing.A number of American Congressmen expressed worries in 2019 about the rise of communal outfits in South Asia including Bangladesh. Jamaat and Hefazat-E-Islam are two most radical Islamist groups in Bangladesh. Hefazat-E-Islam leaders were found categorically speaking against women rights on different occasions. Hefazat leaders denounce Pahela Baishakh too and thus they oppose the cultural heritage of Bangladesh.
The present government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina firmly believes in the principles of humanity and upholds the spirit of the Liberation War. Therefore, we can hope the government will be successful in wiping out communal entities from Bangladesh and will eliminate all other forms of vices and violence to fortify peace and stability.
Bangladesh should stand out in the world with a non-communal posture. There should be no hatred or discrimination towards religious minorities. The authorities concerned should make the best of their efforts to drive Bangladesh forward sustaining fraternity within the people of all religious beliefs. While concluding, a few words from Rabindranath Tagore may be quoted, "The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence."
The writer is a diplomat, entrepreneur, author and Chairman of Editorial Board of The Asian Age.
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